My fifteen-year-old and I attended the August 28, 2014 show at Deer Lake Park in Burnaby, a suburb of Vancouver. It’s a terrific venue; a big lawn with a nicely-steep slope so you can see over the mosh pit. If you’re not a Jack White fan you can stop reading, but if you are, this is a tour you should catch. My notes on the event, in no particular order, with better pictures than I can take:
It’s not a terribly long set — just under two hours — but wow, is there ever a lot of music jammed in. Here’s the set-list; I didn’t take notes so there were noteworthy moments where I can’t remember the song they were in. But anyhow, there are a lot of good songs in that list.
You can’t take pictures. The conditions of entry exclude “Professional cameras, defined as those with removable lenses.” And you can’t really use your phone either, because there’s an announcement which I’ll try to reproduce: “The whole show happens right here on the 40 feet of this stage, it looks way better to your eyes than through your mobile. We know you want pictures so Jack’s hired a photographer and we’ll post them on the web site, so use them and claim you took them if you like. And anyone standing in front of you holding up their phone is an asshole.” Fair enough.
There’s no pre-cooked set list. At the end of each song, Jack decides what’s next and you can see him telling one or two of the band, the ones who need to come in at the beginning; the rest are expected to figure it out and get with the program. It gets complicated; at the end of Alone in My Home, he decided to tack on an extra chorus of Temporary Ground, which required scurrying all over the stage and cueing up more or less the whole band. But it was effective.
Temporary Ground is a beautiful, beautiful song.
Noteworthy moment: Theremin solo! And really well-integrated into the song, too.
High Ball Stepper, which is pretty weird on the album, seems to be getting weirder and weirder as the tour progresses. It went to some very strange places, which is a brave thing to do with your set opener.
I’ve always thought of Steady As She Goes as a nice tuneful pop ditty. Jack seems to think it’s a guitar anthem; he didn’t quite convince me but his argument is forceful.
The White audience is a pretty white audience. When you live in immigrant-heavy aggressively-multiethnic Vancouver, the effect is pretty in-yo-face. More or less all the Asians I saw were wives or girlfriends. No, I have no idea why.
The first really big rock concert I ever attended was CSNY in the year… well, let’s just say dinosaurs walked the earth not just the stage. There were people at last night’s show with outfits and hair that could have been at that one. Young people I mean; there are stable Rock-&-Roll Looks that don’t die: Straw-hat hippie, black-leather chick, Wayne’s-world dimbulb, country shitkicker, and so on. New looks have accreted over the decades: Mohawked punk and emo goth come to mind. Being in a rock-&-roll crowd makes me happy. I wore a leather skullcap and black jeans myself.
I was totally not the only one who went with a kid or kids; lots of multigenerational parties were head-banging together.
The sound was pretty bad, which is inexcusable in a nice outdoor venue. While lots of the individual instruments/voices sounded good, and some combos were spine-chilling — Guitar/theremin, bowed-bass/violin — the whole-band sound was too often an ugly crash-cymbal-heavy screech.
Also, Jack’s acoustic guitar sounded horrible, get a new mike or a new guitar or a new pickup or something. Also, the vocal mike at the upright piano sounded better than the one at the front of the stage. BTW, Jack should do more piano tunes, they bring out something different and good in him.
In the White-Stripes years, Jack got used to having a drummer at the front, stage left, playing a lot of simple CRASH! THUMP! CRASH! THUMP! lines. Meg’s gone now, but he hasn’t lost the habit.
Obviously Jack is a significant guitarist, but last night he was way more effective with short stuff, filling in five bars getting to the bridge, than in the big long showpieces (for example on Ball and Biscuit), which wandered off into the weeds a bit.
Anyone who goes to soccer matches knows that it’s a lot of fun to join a few thousand people singing the Seven Nation Army riff. Turns out, it’s way more fun to do that with a professional backbeat behind you and Jack singing I'm going to Wichita/Far from this opera forevermore…, clapping over his head, letting the audience be the guitar.